“It is a very great fault in any ministry if the doctrine of justification by faith alone be not most clearly taught.”
For Charles Spurgeon the doctrine of justification by faith was foundational for the Christian life. Like the reformers before him Spurgeon insisted that “We are justified by faith, and not by the works of the law.” Indeed, the merit by which a soul entered heaven was “not its own,” but by “the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
In Spurgeon’s view, it was a “very great fault” to neglect this doctrine, an error which could prove “fatal.” Indeed, Spurgeon believed that little fruit could be expected from “a ministry that is indistinct upon the most fundamental of gospel truths.”
However, Spurgeon was aware that a “dangerous state of things” would occur if “doctrine is made to drive out precept.” That is, “Sanctification must not be forgotten or overlaid by justification.” For Spurgeon the “faith which saves” was not “dead,” but was one which “operates with purifying effect upon our entire nature.” Thus, while works could not save they did bear witness to a new life in Christ.
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon articulated “The grounds for expecting more from Christians than from others.” Here he asserted that “There are legitimate reasons why the world, the church, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself, may expect more from Christians than from the rest of mankind.”
The first reason was that Christians “profess more.” Spurgeon believed that “Professions should always be supported by facts,” and if they could not be, then they were “deceits, impostures, and hypocrisies.” Thus, for the Christian professing new life in Christ “your life must prove it.”
The second reason was that Christians were in fact “more than others.” Indeed, Spurgeon insisted that “It is not mere talk, it is a fact that the believer in Christ is born again.” Since believers had “received the Spirit of God” they possessed a “new higher nature” than “other men.”
Indeed, believers were now “precious sons of God” while those outside of Christ were still “heirs of wrath.” Christians were “in the light” while the unbelieving world lay in “darkness.” In light of this great redemption wrought by Christ, Spurgeon asked, “Can any holiness be too precise in return for the infinite love which has been bestowed upon you from before the foundation of the world?”
The third reason was that Christians were indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Reflecting on this reality, Spurgeon rhetorically remarked, “Is he not Omnipotence itself?” Indeed, if the Spirit of God was empowering the believer “Who shall set any limit to the power of that man?”
The fourth, and final reason, was that Christians “have more” because they have Christ. Thus, Spurgeon could say, “the poorest Christian possesses more than the richest unbeliever.” Indeed, even the poor Christian was able to “[despise]” rather than “[covet] the glories of the world” because “God is his portion.” After all, Christians had Christ, and “Christ is all.”
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon called attention to “Matters in which we may naturally look for the Christian to do more than others.” First, Spurgeon observed that the Lord “expects his people to set a more godly example.”
In Spurgeon’s view, the Christians “place in this world [was] peculiarly that of influence.” Specifically, Christian were to be the “salt of the earth” which “seasons” the world “quietly and unostentatiously” which, while not “noisy,” is still “potent.”
Second, the Lord expected from his people “a more exact performance of the divine will.” Indeed, while sinners are saved by grace Spurgeon asserted that “Jesus will have you obey his will, as well as trust his grace.” Further still, Christians were to excel in “gentleness,” “purity,” “truthfulness,” “forbearance,” and in “love to all mankind” to name a few.
In the third, and final section of his sermon, Spurgeon explained the “Reasons for our doing more than others.” First he asserted that “by our fruits we are to be known.” Indeed, he continued, saying, “Men will never know us by our faith, for that is within us; they will know us by our works, which are visible to them.”
But this was not all, the “mouths of gainsayers” needed to be “stopped.” Also, works brought “glory to God” and would also “ensure peace to your own conscience” and deepen “close communion with God.” Finally, there was the grandest reason, love and gratitude towards God.
Why you should take up and read:
For Charles Spurgeon the doctrine of justification by faith was foundational for the Christian life. In his view, it was a “very great fault” to neglect this doctrine, an error which could prove “fatal.” In this sermon, Spurgeon showed that the doctrine of justification by faith does not nullify the need for holy living, but actually encourages it. For the reader wanting to understand the connection between justification and holiness please take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/a-call-to-holy-living#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.